Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats


admitted the impossibility of settling the question with our
mental powers, and therefore brushed it aside. Han Yii's was
a powerful mind, and he was not superstitious, for he was the
man who wrote the famous essay dissuading the Emperor
from sending a delegation to bring back the "Buddha's bones55
from India. I am sure he was half laughing when he composed
that sacrificial appeal to the crocodiles. There have been other
powerful minds, more rationalistic in temperament, like that
of Ssuma Wenkung of the following dynasty, who tried to
disprove the Buddhistic hell by asking why the Chinese people
never dreamed of hell until they heard of Buddhism. But
such rationalism is not typical of the Chinese mind.

To me the most characteristic creatures of the Chinese
imagination are the lovely female ghosts that the Chinese
scholar spins out of his imagination, such as those told in the
Strange Stories From a Chinese Studio* The stories are about the
female ghosts and spirits of wronged and disgraced women who
possess the body of some maid-servant and thus communicate
their complaints to the living, and the dead sweetheart who
returns to her lover and bears him children. It is these stories
with their human touch which are most loved by the Chinese
people. For the Chinese ghosts are wonderfully human, and
the female ghosts are wonderfully lovely, too: they love and
become jealous and take part in the ordinary human life.

It is not the kind of ghosts that scholars need fear when they
are alone at night in their studies. For when the lamp is
burning low and the scholar has fallen asleep, he hears the
noise of a silken dress and opens his eyes to see a demure maiden
of sixteen or seventeen, with a wistful look and a serene air,
looking and smiling at him. She is usually a passionate
creature, for I have no doubt these stories are the wish-fulfil-
ment of the solitary scholars. But she can bring him money
and help him through poverty, by all sorts of cunning wiles.
She can nurse him through sickness with more gentleness than
an average modern nurse. What is stranger still, she will
sometimes try to save money for him, and will wait patiently
for him during his months or years of absence. She can there-
fore be chaste as well. The period of this cohabitation may

i Translated by Professor H. A. Giles.